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News State / Region Republicans host forum for NC-11 candidates

Chris Murray, far right–Chairman of Macon County’s Republican Party, opens up last Saturday’s GOP forum at the Macon County Community Building while the candidates look on.Issues included distortion of Constitution, gay marriage.

Last Saturday afternoon, March. 3, Macon Republicans were given the opportunity to meet and greet with six candidates for the 11th Congressional district seat of North Carolina. The forum was put together by Chris Murray, Chairman of Macon County’s Republican Party, and the Gem Country Republican Women’s Club. The two hour long event was held at the Macon County Community Building.

Mark Meadows, Jeff Hunt, Vance Patterson, Ethan Wingfield, Kenny West, and Spence Campbell accepted the invitation to present their case for why they would be the best choice for Western North Carolina Republicans. The NC-11 seat is currently occupied by Democrat Heath Shuler, and the incumbent opted not to seek reelection this fall. His decision and the new redistricting maps makes it likely that one of the Republicans at the forum will be the next Congressman from WNC.

The format was fairly simple. Each candidate was given five minutes to speak before the audience, describing their background, goals, and philosophy. Afterwards, the forum opened up for questions. Citizens were also given thirty minutes to meet and greet with each candidate before the forum began.

Meadows–who has established himself as the clear frontrunner in a race that is still wide open–has won three straw polls in the last two weeks, including two in Swain and Buncombe counties. Meadows devoted his five minutes to his vision of balancing the budget, tax reform, saying no to liberal judges, and taking a business-like approach to the federal government. The Jackson County real-estate investor bashed President Obama’s excessive spending policies and the President’s reluctance to approve the Keystone Pipeline, something he feels would alleviate the pain at the pump for many Americans.

District Attorney Jeff Hunt, who has won reelection four times since his election in 1994, told fellow Republicans about his resume in the courtroom. Hunt described himself as a constitutional conservative, and like Meadows, endorsed policies of expanding oil drilling and natural gas production in the United States.

Ethan Wingfield, the youngest candidate in the field at 26, expressed his dissatisfaction with Washington kicking the can down the road and getting nothing done. Wingfield told Republicans that he would shore in entitlement spending and promote economic development in WNC by getting government out of the way – a laissez faire approach.

Candidate Kenny West, a Clay county native, spoke about his desire to reduce taxes across the board, reduce government regulations, and repeal the Affordable Care Act. West has worked in the private sector as a supplemental specialist for Liberty National Life for the past four years, and carries an extensive background in the private sector. His speech focused on creating an atmosphere for effective job growth.

Vance Patterson, a Burke County native – one of four counties added to the district after the 2010 gerrymandering – exhibited himself as a Tea Party candidate. Patterson said he started 16 companies, two of which made the INC. 500 list. Patterson has been very active in the Tea Party movement since 2009, and used his five minutes to express his opposition to amnesty, abortion, and the Affordable Care Act. The candidate also says he is against NAFTA, the United Nations, and Agenda 21 (a UN plan for sustainable development). Patterson later said he would support term limits, tax reform, and judicial reform if elected to office.

Spence Campbell, a retired U.S. Army intelligence Officer from Hendersonville, spent his five minutes talking about implementing tax reform, keeping government as local as possible, and getting America back on track.

Campbell feels like the Constitution is being distorted by the Obama Administration in ways the founding fathers would not approve of.

Gay Marriage

All five candidates said they either supported a state constitutional amendment that would ban samesex marriage in North Carolina, or endorsed the Defense of Marriage Act; a federal law that defines marriage between one man and one woman. The measure was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

The state gay marriage ballot initiative was placed on this year’s primary ballot after state legislators voted on the wedge issue last year. The decision to place the proposed amendment on the ballot received bipartisan support. Ultimately, voters will have the opportunity to make the final ruling on the proposed amendment in May when they go to cast their ballots in the Primary.

Mark Meadows speaks about his 20/20 plan last Saturday at Macon’s Community Bldg.When asked if their positions on gay marriage conflicted with individual liberty, each candidate held firm and reiterated their support for laws prohibiting gay marriage. Although the First Amendment prevents Congress from endorsing a single religion, some candidates seemed to invoke Biblical scripture to affirm their support against same-sex marriage.

“This is not a debate for the Libertarian Party,” said candidate Ethan Wingfield. “We’re conservatives because we have values, and one of the values that I hold to firmly is that marriage, as God intended it, is good for society, is good for families, and is good for individuals,” he said. “Now I do think we need to be very thoughtful in how we implement that into public policy,” added Wingfield before saying he supported the Defense of Marriage Act.

“I am a Christian man and I believe that God created one man and one woman,” said Kenny West. West went on to say that the founding fathers used Christian principles in writing the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. “52 out of the 56 signers of the Declaration were Christians,” he said.

conservatives,” said candidate Patterson. “There is so much on the other side that is educating our kids that gay marriage is okay, that gay life is okay, and we need to balance someplace. If we have to achieve that balance in government and legislation, we need to put up with that,” Patterson said.

“Really, when we’re talking about gay marriage we are talking about two things,” stated candidate Mark Meadows. “One is the benefits they are looking for and the recognition they’re looking for. It’s not about love. The truth of the matter is, you can love somebody and the government never tells you who to love, whether its the husband or wife or whether its two guys or two gals,” explained Meadows.

“The family is the cornerstone of our society and the cornerstone of our economy,” said District Attorney Jeff Hunt. Hunt said marriage between one woman and one man has been recognized by civilizations dating back to the Ancient Greeks and Roman societies. “I don’t think conservatives care what happens in various people’s bedrooms,” Hunt said. “It’s not what we’re here for. But I do think the family unit and marriage is one of the most important things we are going to decide in May,” he said.

Spence Campbell stated that the Constitution and the Bible were under attack. “The Defense of Marriage Act is not about two people. It’s about what we have been told by God. It’s important to him and we need to listen to that. Marriage is defined by the relationship between a man and woman. If you want to make it something else, you can’t call it marriage,” said Campbell.

Free Trade

The candidates were also asked to explain their views on free trade, and whether or not they supported free trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

Wingfield: “Milton Friedman was right when he said free trade was good for the world, and over the long-run, would be good for the U.S. I think if you look at the journey we have been on, it has largely been a good thing for the United States of America. It would be disingenuous to suggest that is has come without challenges. Here in WNC it has created a number of challenges. But the people who want to go back to restricting trade, who want to throw up trade barriers, what they’re trying to do is claw against the forces of gravity.”

West: “The problem has been this. Many of our corporations are leaving this country, going overseas, opening up plants because our taxes are so high here they can’t do business here themselves,” he said. West mentioned GE and their recent closing of manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin. “Because they can go over there and manufacture the same thing and bring it back over here and they don’t have to pay taxes. If we change our tax laws, it will take care a lot of this free trade. We have to change our tax law in the United States of America.”

Meadows: “When you look at government getting involved it always has a negative implication. You can look at government getting involved in the early 20th century. What happened was is finally the administration said enough was enough and they got government out of the way. We know that period to be the roaring 20s,” explained Meadows by using historical references to the Coolidge administration’s fiscal policy of reduced spending, taxes, and regulations. “Government gets back involved, what happens? You get the Great Depression,” he said. “Less government means better prosperity. One thing we can say is that Keynesian economics is bipartisan. It doesn’t work under any Party.”

Kenny West, a Clay County native, speaks about his vision for WNC.Hunt: “Free trade has no meaning unless you attach the phrase ‘fair trade.’ Otherwise it is a bad deal and that’s what’s been happening. I’m not crazy about Donald Trump, but there is one thing that he is saying that is true. We are letting the Chinese eat our lunch. They are out negotiating us and they’re not the only ones. We taught India how to be a free market economy and they are beating us at our own game. Now I’m a free trader but I am a fair trader, and those negotiations have got to be fair,” said Hunt. On NAFTA, Hunt said “it’s too late. Those jobs are gone and it wouldn’t help us today to repeal.”

Each candidate was asked several other questions before the forum closed, including questions regarding auditing the Federal Reserve, their views on energy policy and rising gas prices, education, and their favorite Congressmen in Washington. The forum can be viewed in its entirety at www.thunderpigblog.blogspot.com.

State Senator Jim Davis (R-50) was asked to make the closing speech at the event, where he pitched his opinion on Amendment One. “I’m a Bible believing person and I believe we are made in God’s image. I think he made marriage to be between one man and one woman at one time. But you don’t have to be Bible believing to know that. All you have to do is make sure you make it to all your health classes,” he said.

“There is no moral equivalent to traditional marriage in our society. Our government has been subsidizing anti-marriage, traditional marriage behavior for about 40 years. Ever since the Great Society,” he said. “Ladies and gentleman, fifty percent of every white baby born in America is born to a single mother. Seventy percent of every black baby is born to a single mother. If you think that doesn’t have ramifications in our education system, our health-care system, our law-enforcement, and our judicial system, you are wrong,” Davis argued while implying that gay marriage would cause more children to be born out of wedlock.

“I am proud to be a sponsor of that marriage amendment and I want you, and I want you to take everybody that you know to the polls and vote for that,” said Davis. He went on to say that the amendment would not prohibit gay couples from entering into a contract that is legally binding. State law already disallows gay marriage, but a constitutional amendment will ensure that the current law will not be overturned in the immediate future.

Public Policy Polling shows that an overwhelming majority of North Carolinians support the amendment, but the polling firm also showed that the majority of Tar Heels support civil unions as well, which leads their staff to believe that voters may not know how far the amendment goes in banning civil unions.

Civil unions are the legal unions of a same-sex couple that are recognized by the state, conferring all rights to same-sex couples without the implicit historical and religious meaning associated with marriage. Amendment One on the North Carolina primary ballot would not recognize civil unions.

At a November town hall meeting in Franklin, Sen. Davis said he had reservations about the amendment because he felt like some of the language went too far. “I have a lot of libertarian in me,” he said last November. “I believe firmly, passionately that a marriage should be defined as being between one man and one woman. But I also believe with all my heart that in a free America people who choose to live a different lifestyle should have a legal right to do so. Just don’t call it marriage,” said Davis.

Last November, he said Amendment One would “restrict their freedoms a little more beyond my comfort zone.” The Senator has backtracked on those statements, according to his closing speech at the GOP forum last Saturday.

“The marriage amendment is so important because these gay and lesbian, transgender people want moral equivalence to a heterosexual marriage, and it never can be in my opinion. A heterosexual marriage is the bedrock of our society. I feel passionately about that, but I don’t think we need to restrict the rights of people who do not choose to live our lifestyles,” stated Davis at last year’s town hall meeting.

Amendment One will amend Article 14 of the North Carolina State Constitution and will read as follows:

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.


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